What's Happening

Audubon's Birds of Florida

Audubon's Birds of Florida

Brown MuseumCici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art
Open September 21, 2024 through March 2, 2025
Presented by Cici and Hyatt Brown

The Museum of Arts & Sciences invites you on an extraordinary journey through the original Birds of Florida as captured in the meticulously painted studies of John James Audubon (1785-1851), one of the most celebrated artists in American history. A masterpiece of printmaking, these exquisite, life-size illustrations are part of Audubon’s ground-breaking 435-count compendium The Birds of America, the culmination of the artist’s ambition to paint every bird species in North America. As part of this twelve-year venture, Audubon organized a special expedition to Florida (1831-1832) in order to document the birds, and their habitats, unique to the U.S. Territory.

Audubon’s Birds of Florida presents nearly eighty original prints, paintings, and related artifacts, primarily drawn from the Cici and Hyatt Brown Collection, which focus on a selection of birds the artist saw or wrote about from Florida in Ornithological Biography, as well as the majority of birds he painted while in Florida or shortly thereafter. Audubon’s Florida quest began in St. Augustine in November 1831, where he was based for three months. From there, his crew traveled along the east coast of Florida, following rivers, lakes, and marshes in canoe, schooner, and skiff, exploring the St. Johns and Halifax Rivers. Locally, he spent time at Bulow Plantation and Spring Garden Plantation, now called DeLeon Springs. Suffering through swarms of mosquitos and wading through alligator-infested wetlands, the artist recorded bird species new to him, including the natural surroundings, which would make their way into the backgrounds of his realistically rendered subjects. In late April of 1832, Audubon boarded the U.S. Cutter Marion and headed to the Florida Keys, where he was enraptured by the variety and beauty, as well as vast numbers of bird life. At the end of May, the artist returned to Charleston to complete the drawings for many of the acclaimed works on display in this exhibition.

Audubon’s Birds of Florida is presented with the generous support of Cici and Hyatt Brown, whose transformational gift of original Audubon prints makes the MOAS Collection one of the finest in the country. The exhibition is an experiential companion to the sumptuously illustrated catalog, Audubon’s Birds of Florida, written by guest curator Clay Henderson, environmental lawyer, historian, and President Emeritus of the Florida Audubon Society. Henderson’s deep scholarship of John James Audubon’s life and work, as well as his personal commitment to the study and preservation of Florida’s flora and fauna, lead us on a thoughtful expedition of our own. With a specific investigation into relevant conservation issues, this project brings an expanded interpretation of the complex legacy of J. J. Audubon, a brilliant, yet flawed, man of his time, who greatly advanced the world’s understanding of ornithological science and the interdependence of wildlife with the natural environment.

2024 Exhibit Sponsors
Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts.